Kenyan conmen steal Sh150m from US counties

A group of Kenyan scammers in the US and in Nairobi stole more than Sh62.1 million by pretending to work for computer manufacturer Dell, according to prosecutors in the Alexandria federal court.

Robert Muli, a 60-year-old Kenyan immigrant who lived in Ohio, admitted to committing to the offence according to a Wednesday report by Washington Post.

Muli told the Alexandria federal court on Monday that he conspired with people from Kenya to defraud governments across the United States. 

The US county governments affected included those of the cities of Philadelphia and Detroit and the state of Vermont.

Court papers do not identify the Virginia jurisdiction but a Fairfax County spokesman said the county was the victim.

Prosecutors said in the scheme, a co-conspirator in Kenya would email a contact in the local government pretending to be an employee from Dell or another contractor and ask that payments be directed to a new bank account.

Muli would then withdraw that money and transfer it to various accounts.

“It’s true,” he said in court Monday.

The Virginia case unfolded between August and September last year, according to court papers.

The government ultimately sent Sh131 million to Muli that was supposed to go to Dell for a public school programme, according to prosecutors.

It took several emails back and forth between Dell and the government to make clear the money was not going to its account.

The government was able to cancel about half the wire transfers sent.

“In September 2018, Fairfax County identified a financial fraud and immediately reported the incident to law enforcement,” county spokesman Tony Castrilli said.

“The fraud was committed by external parties. An internal review of the case was completed and new internal safeguards and procedures are now in place to prevent this type of crime from occurring in the future,”he said. 

The group also stole Sh13.2 million from the city of Detroit and Sh397,471.21 from the state of Vermont, according to court records.

It attempted to steal Sh23.4 million from Philadelphia, but all of the money was recovered.

No one else has been publicly charged in the scheme. At least some of the co-conspirators are in Kenya, according to court records, where Muli was set to fly the day after his arrest.

One member of the group fled the country while under investigation by the FBI in San Diego, according to court records.

Muli pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is set to be sentenced on October 4 and faces up to 20 years in prison.

Kenyan scammers have been in the news in the recent past after they conned the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum about Sh400 million.

 The Kenyans had sold fake gold to the sheikh’s business associate and the ruler reported the matter to President Uhuru Kenyatta who ordered a crackdown. 

The case has however hit a snag because the Sheik is yet to give consent for his associate to record a statement.

 The police cannot summon or arrest anyone without a statement from a complainant. 

(Edited by O. Owino)